There is a protocol to addressing umpires. Players and managers usually have a wide berth to say what they want, so long as they don’t publically show up the ump with whom they’re arguing. For hitters and catchers, this means not turning around to face him as they speak. For managers, it’s overt displays of anger during the course of a discussion.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon hewed closely to these rules yesterday, and was tossed anyway—to the delight of his players.
Maddon was angry that, for the second straight day, a Rays pitcher was called for a balk in a critical situation. Because managers are not allowed to argue balk calls, Maddon instead went to the mound and made his case to his pitcher, Matt Garza, loudly enough for the ump in question—Gary Cederstrom, who was manning second base, and who during the course of dialog circled around behind Maddon—to hear. (Watch it here.)
Maddon, surrounded by his infielders, looked just like he would if he was arguing with an umpire, arms waving, finger pointing and volume high—only facing his own pitcher.
It wasn’t enough. Cederstrom quickly tossed him.
“The umpire said, ‘Are you talking to me, or are you talking to your pitcher?’ ” said second baseman Reid Brignac in the St. Petersburg Times. “Joe said, ‘I’m talking to my pitcher.’ Then Joe started again. ‘That’s the second damn day in a row, yada, yada, yada.’ It was definitely amusing.”
One of Maddon’s goals was to vent anger over what he felt was a pattern of bad calls. (Before Wednesday’s balk call on James Shields, pointed out the Times, the pitcher had faced more than 3,600 batters in his career and been called for only one balk; Garza’s last balk was more than 1,300 batters ago.)
He also wanted to give Garza a moment to get his head back in the game. It worked; Garza worked out of the jam and ended up going eight innings.
Maddon accomplished both items while sticking to the Code. He didn’t show up the umpire so much as the umpire showed up himself.
Ultimately, he proved the point that it’s not just how you say something that can get you tossed—it’s what you say, as well.